PENNE ALLA PUTTANESCA (from the ladies of the night, with spicy caper, black olive and tomato sauce, for four)

 Pasta, penne alla puttanesca 1  Pasta, penne alla puttanesca 2

“Ostensibly a sauce invented and made by prostitutes, it is said that pasta puttanesca was designed to lure customers with its aroma. Other explanations: that the prostitutes were too busy to cook much, or that they had no storage for fresh ingredients and cooked entirely from the pantry.” Mark Bittman, The New York Times, January 15, 2009

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves

2 fresh hot chiles, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 cups Mario’s marinara or two 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes (Roma, or plum, tomatoes preferred) in juice (not puree), drained (juice reserved) and chopped

3 tablespoons capers, or to taste

20 to 25 large black olives (kalamatas), pitted

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano

freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 ounces salted, boned anchovies

3 or 4 sprigs parsley, finely chopped

1 pound penne


1. Heat oil in a 5 to 6 quart pot over moderately high heat and sauté 2 cloves of garlic, crushed, until browned. Discard them.

2. Add the remaining garlic cloves, finely chopped, and red pepper flakes (if you are using them) and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the marinara, capers, olives, oregano, fresh peppers (if you are using them) and a little freshly ground black pepper. Cook over brisk heat for 10 minutes, or until the marinara is heated through. (Sauce can be made to this point up to 1 week ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.)

3. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and the penne. Start timing after water returns to a boil and cook until al dente, 11 to 12 minutes for Barilla (If you are using another brand of dried pasta, follow instructions on box). Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water and drain the penne.

4. If the anchovies are whole, rinse them and remove their heads and tails. If they are fillets, pat them dry with paper towels. Cut them into small pieces and add them to the sauce, together with the parsley. Lower heat and cook gently for 20 minutes. Add a little salt if required, and some pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce. If you have used fresh peppers, discard them (Or, if you prefer a very hot sauce, chop the chili finely and return to the sauce.) Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately over penne.

adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

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